Blinded by snow, men rescued after sailboat hits dam

2013-10-23T04:30:00Z 2013-10-23T04:57:03Z Blinded by snow, men rescued after sailboat hits damBrian Wellner bwellner@qctimes.com The Quad-City Times

They were saving their flare for a celebration but had to use it for an emergency Tuesday.

Tanner Ballengee, 24, and Conner Morton, 26, both of Topeka, Kan., were sailing down the Mississippi River when they were blinded by snowfall and fog and got stuck on a lateral dam around Moline.

"It just kept coming down," Morton said. "We lost all visibility. It took us by surprise."

The Moline Fire Department got the call about 11 a.m., and a rescue boat went out looking for the sailboat.

"It took a while to find them because the visibility is near zero," Moline Fire Capt. Mick Dochterman said.

Rescuers found them after the stranded men fired off a flare.

"We had been wanting to shoot that flare gun," Morton said. "We were saving it for a celebration, but we had to use it in an emergency instead."

The men started their journey more than a week ago at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, the headwaters of the Mississippi. They got about 500 miles in a canoe when someone at a marina in Wisconsin gave them a free sailboat, a flare and instructions.

Ballengee smiled and said he has never sailed before. But they had big ambitions for their trip.

"Our goal was to get to the Gulf of Mexico," Ballengee said. "We got off to a late start."

They started Tuesday's leg of their journey in LeClaire, and there were flurries, but the weather seemed OK enough to sail, Ballengee said.

As they headed into the Quad-Cities, the snow got heavier and was falling faster. The steam rising from the river created a dense fog so they couldn't see either the Iowa or Illinois sides.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Ervin, the temperature of the river was a warm 54 degrees, and that combined with moist, cool air created a thick fog.

It was too late when they saw the dam. Ballengee said he tried to turn to avoid hitting it, but the 22-foot vessel slammed into the rocks.

Neither man was injured. They complained of being cold.

Sitting in a Moline Fire vehicle warming up, they didn't know the condition of their boat but remained determined to continue on their journey.

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(15) Comments

  1. Santony25
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    Santony25 - October 29, 2013 2:00 pm
    Yep but anyone sailing during any season, in any state should know to check the weather!!! Like I said
    Mor ons!
  2. longjohn412
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    longjohn412 - October 26, 2013 11:48 pm
    Yeah they should have known there would be a once in a generation snowstorm in mid-October .... because it happens so often ....
  3. longjohn412
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    longjohn412 - October 26, 2013 11:46 pm
    You mean Reaganphones don't you?

    After all it was his program not Obama's who was just a young man when Reagan started that program .....

    But the LIE sounds better than the Truth to those with no Morals or Ethics .... so carry on oh Moral-less Unethical one ....
  4. Santony25
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    Santony25 - October 25, 2013 2:19 am
    Not dumb! But THANKS! And your right! .... In a way
  5. Klaatu
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    Klaatu - October 24, 2013 9:20 pm
    Wow, You aren't a "freeloader", but you are pretty dumb. I was quite obviously referring to people who choose to let others support them instead of work. And no, your special needs kid doesn't get free school. There is no such thing. You work, you pay taxes, you aren't a moocher. Get a clue.
  6. Santony25
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    Santony25 - October 23, 2013 8:28 pm
    Moochers who freeload.....
    Hmm have you ever stopped to think about that? Really?
    I guess I'm a moocher who freeloads, cause I pay for 2 of my kids schooling were my other kid gets FREE school. Why.....? Cause he is special needs, wow... I'm a freeloader!!
  7. Santony25
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    Santony25 - October 23, 2013 8:24 pm
    Spirit of adventure? So if this was a rescue story, then nobody should feel sorry or sad they that lost their lives sailing in bad weather. Can't tell me they didn't see the weather for the day on their phones or news somewhere before they set off.
    Hey let's go sailing, it's going to snow and rain. 100% chance of crazy weather. Maybe we will make the news...... Sound good!!
    To bad they had to use the flare gun to be rescued. That would have been so cool to celebrate with!
    I can't feel sorry or sad for stupidity.
    Stupid adventure almost cost their lives. Next time do this adventure on decent weather.
    It's almost like this was for attention.
    I think I hear the TODAY SHOW calling....... Crazy people!!
  8. geoff
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    geoff - October 23, 2013 7:48 pm
    Dumb & Dumber
  9. Klaatu
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    Klaatu - October 23, 2013 7:44 pm
    Why? We let millions of moochers freeload off the taxpayers for years, even decades. Free food, free housing, free Obamaphones. And you want to go after these two young guys who have a spirit of adventure?
  10. Jack S
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    Jack S - October 23, 2013 10:45 am
    I'd like to see a pic of that 'free' sailboat ?
  11. Santony25
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    Santony25 - October 23, 2013 8:36 am
    If anything, they should be embarrassed. People will do anything just to get their name in the paper....
    Mor ons!
  12. CGE
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    CGE - October 23, 2013 7:49 am
    Seriously never sailed before and in a sailboat in a snowstorm on the river? Honestly this should've been a recovery. I hope they are charged for rescue services. Just dumb!
  13. snowman05
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    snowman05 - October 23, 2013 7:22 am
    But hey they get free health care
  14. Santony25
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    Santony25 - October 22, 2013 10:14 pm
    So smart to sail this time of year. Sailing on the good 'ol Mississippi, exciting!
  15. finch
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    finch - October 22, 2013 8:54 pm
    Wow!
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